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Moldovans Rally To Protest Formal Recognition Of Islam

Moldovans protest against the official registration of Muslim group in Chisinau on May 18.
Moldovans protest against the official registration of Muslim group in Chisinau on May 18.
CHISINAU -- Hundreds of Moldovans have taken to the streets in Chisinau to protest the government's recognition of the country's tiny Muslim minority, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.

Some participants in the rally warned that the decision would open the door to terrorism and lead to mass conversions to Islam.

"We want to guard our borders and to defend our Orthodox faith.... The Muslims are like a virus. If you let in just a few they will multiply," one female participant at the rally told RFE/RL, refusing to give her name.

Another woman in the crowd outside the government building said Muslims would introduce polygamy and "harems" to Moldova. And a priest named Gheorghe was quoted by local media as saying at the rally that the Muslims "are all instructed in terrorism."

The rally was organized by several Orthodox Christian associations under the umbrella of the powerful Moldovan Metropolitan Church, which has for weeks criticized the government's decision in March to register the Islamic League as a representative of the Muslim faith.

Also today, the Moldovan Antidiscrimination Coalition NGO organized a much smaller counterprotest outside the headquarters of the Metropolitan Church, asking it to stop what it called "its endless campaigns of intolerance."

Earlier this year, the Moldovan Orthodox Church and conservative politicians forced the pro-Western government to shelve a bill that would have banned discrimination against many minorities, including religious groups and gays.

Officially there are just 2,000 Muslims living in Moldova. But the Islamic League says the number is closer to 17,000, though not all of them are registered as Muslims because previous governments considered Islam to be illegal.